Ireland is a small, independent country located in northwestern Europe. The country's official name is the Republic of Ireland. Dublin is the capital and largest city. The country occupies about five-sixths of the island of Ireland. The remaining one-sixth of the island is occupied by Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
In Gaelic, the ancient language of Ireland, the country is called Eire (pronounced AIR uh). Gaelic and English are the country's two official languages. Ireland also has long been known by the poetic name Erin. Ireland is also known as the Emerald Isle. It is called this because of its beautiful green countryside. Rolling farmlands, which are mainly pasture, cover much of the central part of the country, and mountains rise near the coasts.
Ireland is divided into 26 counties, and some of the counties are known for special features. For example, County Kerry is famous for its mountains and the scenic Lakes of Killarney. County Waterford is known for its delicate cut glass, and County Donegal is famous for its tweed cloth.
Many people consider the Irish to be exceptionally warm-hearted and friendly. The Irish also have a reputation for hospitality, close family ties, and skill as writers and storytellers.
The Irish have a long history that includes many hardships and struggles. In the 1840's, a potato blight and the starvation and disease that followed caused the deaths of about a million people and at least as many people left their homeland. After this famine, a shortage of jobs and other problems caused emigration to continue. As a result, little more than half as many people live in Ireland today as lived there in 1845.
Ireland was under British rule for hundreds of years. Ireland gained its independence from Britain in 1921.
The lowlands cover most of central Ireland. They include some wooded areas but consist principally of gently rolling farmlands, which are mainly pasture. They also include peat bogs (former swamps composed of partly decayed plants). Peat bogs cover about a tenth of Ireland. Most of them are located in the central and western parts of the country.
Most of Ireland's mountains rise near the coasts and border the lowlands. The chief mountain ranges are the Donegal Mountains in the northwest, the Mountains of Mayo and the Mountains of Connemara in the west, the Mountains of Kerry in the southwest, and the Wicklow Mountains in the east. Ireland's highest peak, 1,041-meter Carrauntoohill, rises in the Mountains of Kerry.